Saturday, 25 April 2009


The word on the street has it that NUS' LGBT conference has voted not to change its name from LGBT to LGBTQ (...queer). There have been moves afoot to expand the remit to LGBTQA (asexual) as well, and indeed one to drop all four letters in favour of Queer, which achieves a rare feat of managing to offend large chunks of all four LGBT communities.

This kind of thing is of no immediate consequence. Internal battles in NUS consistently fail to change the world, whether in halting the decline of student funding or delivering peace in the parts of the Middle East where lesser influences such as sending over Bill Clinton or bombing the locals into submission didn't work. From the distance of being outside youth & student politics NUS does all just look like a training camp for New Labour MPs and a space for the faux-left to soak up potential activist energy away from anything that might lead to actual social or political change.

But as people graduate from NUS and move on into other areas of activism and life they tend to take a lot of NUS values with them.

Often this is not such a good thing, such as taking NUS double-dealing, partisanship and hackery into mainstream political life, but it does seem to have had an important positive impact in LGBT circles: viz, that when I was a student including the "B" of LGB was still mostly confined to students unions, while now a few generations of NUS hacks later the B and T have percolated out into most formerly LG organisations.

The downside of course is NUS LGBT has tended not to deliver so strongly for B as its other strands, and that has been reflected where groups went LGB/T, but at least we have the foot in the door.

But in turn that means that if NUS LGBT became LGBTQ or LGBTQA, in ten years we might anticipate organisations like Delga, LGF or Stonewall coming under increasing pressure to widen their remit.

All of which said, I don't (yet) buy the LGBT to LGBTQ argument. It seems to boil down to that people own different labels for the same thing - for example, people who are attracted to several genders but are shy of fighting biphobia (or have bought heavily into it themselves) and so want the Q label instead of the B. But that would be terribly inconsistent, as LGBT already misses out for example those lesbians who prefer the label 'dyke'. Are there really sections of Q who are not actually L, G, B or T?

1 comment:

  1. I was at that conference in 2008, and the debate boils down to the same thing every year: there are those who identify as queer but often not as lgbt and want that to be recognised (and their supporters), and those who hate the word queer and thus believe that the NUS should not acknowledge it, regardless of whether or not some of its members identify that way.